Three images of dart boards representing accuracy, consistency, and accessibility

When you’re trying to solve a problem, the first step is figuring out what’s gone wrong. If your higher education institution has messy data practices, then your finance, reporting, admissions and student management processes could be suffering. But there’s a better way. 

Today’s integrated technology solutions make it easier for colleges to better organize, store and share data. Modern student data management software can improve your school’s data management practices and help get your school on the right path. 

In this post, we’ll cover: 

The Three Key Pillars of Student Data Management

To properly manage student data and information, your school needs to follow three consistent rules: accuracy, consistency and accessibility. When you follow these three principles, everyone benefits from better communication, more efficient work processes and reliable transparency. Think of it as a well-oiled machine.  

  • Data Accuracy: Your operations are only as good as the data that it’s fed. Your school needs accurate and up-to-date information on students, enrollment, financial aid, billing, registration and more. When everyone has accurate information, and pulls it from reliable sources using pre-built (and pre-approved) reports and templates, it reduces errors and improves operations overall. 
  • Data Consistency: Across departments and teams, employees and students should all have access to the same software and data. That way, when they input, edit, delete or share information, that data is uniformly represented across your school (and tracked). Having consistency produces more reliable results and helps smooth collaboration and communication. 
  • Data Availability: Your school’s key stakeholders, including faculty, staff and students, need to have easy access to the data tools and information. Forms, spreadsheets, databases and reports should be well-organized, sortable and easy to find on common dashboards. 

The Problems With Student Data Mismanagement

Whether you manage a career school, trade school, non-profit university or college, there’s a lot of data to oversee. From students’ personal information to admissions, registration, financial aid and billing (just to name a few), today’s schools collect and store tremendous amounts of information – and without the right training and processes, it can quickly get disorganized. 

Additionally, if different departments use their own software and third-party applications, those systems may not be compatible. If data is not properly input, stored and organized, it can cause errors, mistakes and missed opportunities. That’s bad for your school, students, and the staff and faculty. 

Data mismanagement can trip up even the best organizations. These are some of the most common data problems schools encounter:  

  • Disorganization: At some schools, different departments use their own software and the systems do not communicate. Not to mention, silos are bad for data management and visibility. If data is spread across disparate systems and no one can easily share or access the data that they need, it slows down operations and can cause costly mistakes. 
  • Inefficiency: Your users need information at their fingertips and on-demand. If everyone has to go to multiple sources to find the information they need, it’s a waste of time. When data systems are centralized, it saves time and improves efficiency. 
  • Negative User Experience: If your faculty, staff, administrators and students can’t intuitively navigate your system, it can cause frustration and – worst case scenario – lead to errors and incomplete processes. That has a trickle-down effect that may cause problems with financial aid reporting, applications or attendance monitoring. 
  • Mistakes: Today’s schools are often required to share information with the government on the student body, attendance, graduation rates, job placement and financial aid. Messy data makes it hard to generate the right reports or get accurate information. For example, a student’s registration and enrollment might not be processed in time to start classes, or federal student financial aid might not be disbursed correctly or on time.

How You Can Solve Your School’s Student Data Problems

If your school suffers from data mismanagement, you’ve probably experienced some – or all – of the problems listed above. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. A modern data management system can solve these problems and set your school up for success. Across your institution, these groups can benefit from better data management practices:

School Leadership and Administrators: When data is centralized, your school leaders have access to information that’s critical to their decision-making, including budgeting, marketing, recruiting, admissions, enrollment, financial aid, registration, and course and program offerings. It also helps monitor the departments under their purview.

Marketing and Admissions: Your recruiting and admissions teams need reliable data systems that are easy to access and edit. That coordination is key to a successful admissions process. Recruiters need to organize and manage their marketing efforts and share that information with admissions. A database helps track prospective students and coordinate the handoff from recruiting to admissions, as well as process applications and quickly engage prospects in follow-up communications. As students enroll and register, that data also needs to be accurate and well-maintained. Students’ financial aid needs also start at this stage.  

Financial Aid: Accurate and timely data is critical to ensuring student aid is properly processed and disbursed to your students. Your financial aid team needs access to student records and financial aid documents, as well as the ability to track the aid disbursements. For students receiving federal financial aid, schools need to provide reporting and documentation to the government, so data HAS to be reliable, or it could risk students’ not getting funds or endanger a school’s Title IV eligibility. 

Faculty: A data management system needs to allow faculty to digitally track and record attendance and grades (no more manual tracking and inputting information!). It’s also important that it integrates with your school’s learning management system.  

Students: Your students need access to data, too! With a modern student information system, students are able to submit their forms, personal information, and financial aid materials and feel confident their information is secure. They also benefit from centralized communications and easy access to downloading and uploading forms and information.  

The Role of an Integrated Student Information System in Student Data Management

Data mismanagement can snarl your school’s operations and cause serious errors. But if your school implements an integrated student information system, the data can be stored accurately and securely, and enables seamless access across departments. 

Here are just a few of the advantages:

Library of Reports: To create consistency in reports, a good student information system should have a library of pre-built forms and documents. That way, users can find and utilize the resources they need, and then plug in necessary data to create consistent and compliant reports. Those reports can easily be shared within your community or with third parties to save time and minimize mistakes.

Common Dashboards: An integrated system should have dashboards that uniformly allow all users to view and access information. That way, information is displayed clearly, easy to understand, and users can quickly find and utilize tools and data they need.

Cloud-Based Advantage: A modern student information system with cloud storage eliminates the need for on-site servers and hardware, which makes it much more cost-effective. Updates and security checks are automatic and occur off-site so your student information system is never down.

Ease of Use: With databases, it helps to have an intuitive platform with a clean interface. When various groups of users can operate the same system, it reduces headaches (and help desk calls), improves communication and makes change management easier. 

Improved Compliance: An integrated solution makes government reporting faster, easier and more reliable. Users can easily access data and pre-built reports, then share and submit information to the appropriate in-house representatives and government agencies. This is particularly important for Title IV federal financial aid reporting.

A Single Source of Truth: When all of your information, data and documents are stored in one central repository, your stakeholders all work from a common source of information. That reduces errors and confusion, while promoting accuracy, collaboration and transparency.

Seamless Workflow: A single source of truth and secure data storage will promote better workflows. Routing, communications, notifications and alerts are baked into an integrated system, allowing users to communicate in real-time, which reduces delays and errors.

Don’t Wait Any Longer to Improve Student Data Administration

When data is mismanaged and inaccurate, it can impact everything from budgets to compliance. But when your school implements an integrated, cloud-based student information system that keeps your information secure in one centralized location, everyone will be able to work smarter and faster with confidence that the information is accurate and up to date. 

Now that’s a data solution if we’ve ever heard of one!

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